This area was the western frontier of the Kansas Territory in 1858 when William Larimer staked a claim to a square mile of hillside overlooking the confluence of the South Platte River and Cherry creek. Larimer had big plans for his unformed town and to help persuade the powers that be back in Eastern Kansas to pick his camp as the seat of Arapahoe County over the other existing mining camps he named it “Denver City” after Kansas Territorial Governor James W. Denver. Word had not filtered west from the capital of Lecompten, however, that Denver had already resigned his post and he would be dispensing no such favors.
Denver City got underway nonetheless as a mining settlement, where prospectors could find supplies while they sifted the sands of Cherry Creek. There wasn’t much gold but word of new strikes came along just often enough to keep the town viable while the United States Congress was hammering out the free Territory of Colorado in Washington. Denver City indeed became the Territorial Capital in 1865 but its future was far from assured. Fires and spring flooding plagued the settlement and then the Transcontinental Railroad not only passed the town by, it was routed 100 miles to the north through Cheyenne.
Worried town leaders realized there was no time to waste if there was going to continue to be a Denver. A railroad to that main line was what was needed and the Denver Pacific was formed after a fund-raising campaign by the Board of Trade netted $300,000 in three days. it would not be enough but Denver businessmen kept the enterprise afloat until the first trains rolled down the tracks on June 24, 1870.
The population of Denver at that time was 4,759. When the next census was taken in 1880 it was over 35,000. A silver strike in the Rocky Mountains in the 1870s brought more people and by the time the silver boom went bust in 1890 there were more than 100,000 people living in Denver. For most Americans there were two cities in the West - San Francisco and Denver.
At the turn of the 20th Century, 16th Street was the town’s main thoroughfare and was being compared favorably with Chicago’s State Street. Major retailers lined up down the “city promenade” and invited some of the country’s most celebrated architects to design their shopping palaces. After Union Station was constructed 17th Street attained similar prominence as a business and finance hub. So many banks congregated here that it became known as “The Wall Street of the Rockies.”
Our walking tour of Denver’s Central Business District will cover both 16th and 17th streets and we will begin at a building that 100 years ago symbolized Denver’s newly achieved status in the American West, the tallest building ever erected west of the Mississippi River when it appeared on the cityscape...
Daniels & Fisher Tower
1101 16th Street at northwest corner of Arapahoe Street
William Bradley Daniels arrived in Denver from New York in the pioneer days of the 1860s and began peddling dry goods with J.M. Echart in a small store on the corner of 15th and Larimer streets. William Garrett Fisher came on board in 1872 and the partners set up shop on this block a few years later. By the time of Daniels’ death in 1890 Daniels & Fisher was the go-to emporium for stylish shoppers in Denver and would remain so until the business was acquired by rival May Company in 1958. This landmark tower appeared on the Denver streetscape in 1912. William Cooke Daniels, son of the founder and his successor as head of the business, had traveled extensively in Italy and wanted to re-create the the Campanile at the Piazza San Marco in Venice for his new store. Architect Frederick Sterner designed the 325-foot tower, with a Seth Thomas clock on all four sides, as the anchor for the five-story Italian Renaissance-style department store. The store was razed in 1971 after being vacant for many years but the clock tower, that had been the tallest structure west of the Mississippi River in its day, was saved for office space.
WALK UP ARAPAHOE STREET TO 17TH STREET (THE DANIELS & FISHER TOWER WILL BE ON YOUR LEFT). TURN RIGHT ON 17TH STREET AND WALK TO THE INTERSECTION OF CHAMPA STREET.
Colorado National Bank Building
918 17th Street at southwest corner of Champa Street
The Kountze Brothers of Ohio started a bank in Omaha, Nebraska in 1857. Business was good and in 1862 Luther, then only 21 years old, volunteered to go to Denver and start another Kountze Brothers Bank. By 1866 Luther Kountze was the most trusted banker in town - thanks in part to his 1,800-pound safe that twelve oxen had taken 35 days to pull from Omaha - and the business was reorganized into the Colorado National Bank with Luther as president. Luther Kountze had long since departed for New York’s Wall Street when this banking temple was erected in 1915. Brothers William and Arthur Fisher designed the Neoclassical structure with a parade of fluted Ionic columns along two elevations; the Colorado Yule Marble Company, a major Colorado National Bank customer and the only miner of marble in the United States, provided the stone that dressed the exterior. The upper half of the building was a later addition that failed to realize the elegant proportions of the original.
828 17th Street at southeast corner of Champa Street
After spectacular Union Station was erected in 1881, 17th Street, which ran directly to its front door, gained in importance. No building exemplified this new status more than this office building that was hailed as “one of the finest and costliest” in the state when it was raised in 1889. The Boston architectural firm of Andrews, Jacques and Rantoul - hence the building’s name - tapped the Romanesque style with its signature arches for the eight-story structure and used native red sandstone in the construction. A hundred years later the space has been re-imagined as luxury lofts.
821 17th Street at northeast corner of Champa Street
This corner stalwart was constructed in 1907 as an advertisement for Charles Boettcher. Boettcher began his odyssey to the first rank of Denver citizenry in Germany before traveling to Wyoming in 1869 to visit his brother when he was 17 years old. He became a partner in his brother’s hardware company in Greeley and Ft. Collins and expanded the business to Boulder and Leadville. In 1900 he organized the Ideal Cement Company and financed the construction of this property to promote his product; it was heralded as the “first reinforced concrete multi-story building constructed west of the Mississippi.” The concrete was faced with travertine marble and decorative carvings. After a lifetime housing banks the Ideal Building received a complete makeover in the 1990s, winning back its original condition.
1717 Champa Street at northwest corner of 17th Street
The architect brothers William Fisher and Arthur Fisher are credited with 67 downtown Denver structures and the duo decorated this entire corner, save for the Boston Building. Here the Hotel Monaco has been stitched together from two Fisher buildings - the Railway Exchange raised along Champa Street in 1917 and the Title Building on the corner from 1937. With its sensuous Art Moderne curves, the Rocky Mountain News was moved to gush upon the completion of the Title building that the Fishers’ latest creation was “...the first fully modernistic building in Denver.”
TURN LEFT ON CHAMPA STREET.
Chamber of Commerce Building
1726 Champa Street
Willis Adams Marean and Albert Julius Norton formed an architectural partnership in 1895 that would last more than four decades in Denver. They constructed this “Temple of Commerce” for the Denver Chamber of Commerce that had organized in 1884. It was one of two downtown buildings designed to be decorated with exterior lights and there are 400 on the Neoclassical facade. The Chamber stayed here until 1950 after which the building was entombed in a metal straightjacket for many years before being rescued in the 1990s.
Buerger Brothers Building
1732 Champra Street
The Buerger brothers were Hugo, Otto, Max Nad Julius - who opened a barbershop in Pueblo in 1885 after sailing across the Atlantic Ocean from Germany. Three years later the Buergers were in Denver, selling barbershop supplies. By 1890 the brothers were able to construct their own building and were advertising “the largest and finest stocks of modern equipment and supplies for barber shop and beauty parlor to be found in the entire West.” In 1929 the firm moved into one of Denver’s finest Art Deco buildings, designed by architect Montana Fallis with molded polychromatic terra-cotta panels in zig-zag patterns. The Denver Fire Clay Building next door on the corner began life as a two-story commercial brick building in 1892. After it was gutted by fire in 1937 the Buerger Brothers acquired it as an annex with a new streamlined Art Moderne facelift. The Buerger Brothers closed in 1983, falling just two years shy of a century in business.
TURN RIGHT ON 18TH STREET.
Byron White United States Courthouse
18th Street between Stout and Champa streets
The federal government had supplied Denver with a monumental post office in 1893 but the town was growing so rapidly that by 1908 plans were hatched for an even larger building for the postal service and federal courts. New York architects Evarts Tracy, Egerton Swartwout and Electus Litchifeld prepared the plans for a Neoclassical tour de force influenced by the City Beautiful movement gripping major American cities in the early 1900s. Famous Yule Marble from 9,300 feet up in Colorado’s Elk Mountains dresses the federal building, the same as it does the Lincoln Memorial. The exterior serves as a history lesson in mail delivery in Colorado with names of the state’s towns inscribed in the frieze and the names of Pony Express riders carved into the marble walls. The Rocky Mountain sheep at the southwest entrance were sculpted of Indiana limestone by Denver artist Gladys Caldwell Fisher as part of the government’s program to hire artists during the Great Depression. The building carries the name of All-American halfback at the University of Colorado, Byron “Whizzer” White, who spent thirty years on the bench of the United States Supreme Court after being nominated by President John F. Kennedy.
northeast corner of Stout and 18th streets
For a brief time after it was completed in 1983 this brown concrete tower was Denver’s Sky King at 709 feet. It was eclipsed the following year by Republic Plaza which stands five feet taller but it remains the state’s second-tallest building today. And if you add the antenna mast to the height it is the city’s tallest building.
800 18th Street at southwest corner of Stout Street
This building was constructed in 1891 for real estate maven Allen M. Ghost who hired William Lang, one of Colorado’s leading architects, to produce the commercial structure. Lang was most noted for his opulent residences and this is, in fact, the only commercial work of his remaining in Denver. Thirty years ago you could not have made that statement. In 1979, the Ghost Building, despite being listed on the National Register of Historic Places, had a date with the wrecking ball when architect Brian T. Congleton spearheaded a drive to dismantle the building at its location on the corner of 15th Street and Glenarm Place and put it back together someplace else. Five years later that somewhere else turned out to be here. At a cost of $25,000, the 1,700 original stones were hauled out of storage and attached to the building on this corner.
TURN RIGHT ON STOUT STREET AND WALK ONE BLOCK TO 17TH STREET.
U.S. National Bank/Guaranty Bank Building
801 17th Street at northwest corner of Stout Street
This intersection is the heart of Seventeenth Street, which attracted all the state’s most important financial institutions in the early 20th century and became known as “The Wall Street of the Rockies.” John A. Ferguson, one of Denver’s leading money men, poured $500,000 into this brick-and-limestone behemoth in 1921 that was one of the town’s largest buildings to date. The architectural firm of William and Arthur Fisher gave the Chicago Commercial style structure understated classical detailing including Ionic pilasters and a dentil block cornice. Vacant and in disuse after the 1980s, the building found new life as residential lofts.
First National Bank of Denver/Magnolia Hotel
800 17th Street at southwest corner of Stout Street
With the coming of the skyscraper age in the early 1890s many towns implemented height limitations hoping to insure their streets would not become light-starved urban canyons. Denver put in place an ordinance limiting commercial buildings to nine stories. This building gets the nod as Denver’s “first skyscraper,” the first to climb over the city’s nine-story height ordinance. Developers proposed a fourteen-story structure and after heated protests a compromise law lifted the limit to twelve stories. Harry W.J. Edbrooke filled that space for First National Bank that became the first bank to move to Seventeenth Street in 1911. First National had been one of only four Denver banks to come out of the Panic of 1893 intact and, as the most influential, led a charge to this part of town that spiked real estate prices. Time did not treat the historic landmark well - it was slathered in concrete in the 1960s to modernize it and then abandoned. In 1993 it was restored as the linchpin of the Magnolia hotel chain.
The Equitable Building
730 17th Street at southeast corner of Stout Street
Pushing right up against that nine-story height limit was the Equitable Building, which was the city’s largest office building when completed in 1892. The firm of Andrews, Jacques, and Rantoul, who were in town to work on the Boston Building, provided the elegant Italian Renaissance design that attracted not only Eastern money interests to Denver but the state executive offices set up shop here for awhile while the capitol building was beign readied. The price tag was a staggering $1.5 million for the three-winged Equitable Building.
TURN LEFT ON 17TH STREET.
707 17th Street
northwest corner of California and 17th streets
At 522 feet, this was the tallest building in Colorado when it was raised in 1981, holding the title for two years. Unlike many skyscrapers that taper at they rise, this black glass box bulges out after the fifteenth floor. Not a “set-back” but a “set-front” design.
555 17th Street
northwest corner of Glenarm and 17th streets
This 40-story rectangular glass tower was the tallest building constructed in Denver in the 1970s and at 507 feet it stands today as the seventh tallest building in the state. The glass box is a trademark of its architects, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill who have created some of the country’s tallest landmarks.
Denver Club Building
518 17th Street at southwest corner of Glenarm Street
The Denver Club was founded in 1881 with the lofty ideal to “foster and cultivate a social intercourse that has never existed in the West before.” In the early 1950s the club’s palatial red sandstone clubhouse from 1888 was razed and the city’s first modern skyscraper rose in its historic footprint. Denver’s oldest private club took up residence on the top floor of the 23-story tower.
Midland Savings Building
444 17th Street at southeast corner of Glenarm Place
The Midland Savings and Loan Company took its first deposits in 1891 and by the 1920s was one of the largest such institutions in the country. Fisher & Fisher designed a suitably grand Italian Renaissance banking palace in 1925, fashioned from brown brick and sculpted terra-cotta. Like many of its downtown cousins, the building lives on as luxury lofts.
TURN LEFT ON GLENARM PLACE. TURN RIGHT ON 18TH STREET.
Trinity United Methodist Church
1820 Broadway at Tremont Place and 18th Street
The first Methodist services in Denver City were held in camps in 1858. A year later the Denver City Methodist Episcopal Mission was established and was serviced by circuit riding preachers until a meetinghouse could be raised in 1865. The town’s oldest congregation has gathered here since 1887; the Gothic Revival church was designed by Robert Roeschlaub and constructedof rhyolite quarried from Castle Rock.
FROM THE FIVE-WAY INTERSECTION, TURN RIGHT AND WALK DOWN TREMONT PLACE.
Brinker Collegiate institute/The Navarre
1725-1727 Tremont Place
Joseph Brinker founded a private school here in 1880 to instill in young Denver ladies “customary Christian virtues.” In short order the school achieved a reputation for education of high standing but Brinker died in 1886 and the school shuttered. The premises were extensively remodeled and reopened in 1889 as a casino operated by gamblers and the upper floors were frequented by a different class of lady. Today the Narvarre brothel houses the American Museum of Western Art and the exuberant brick Victorian structure with its blend of Italianate and French Second Empire architecture stands as the oldest building in downtown Denver.
Brown Palace Hotel
17th Street and Tremont Place
The Brown Palace Hotel has been where Presidents and captains of industry have signed the guest register for over a century. Henry C. Brown, a carpenter from Ohio, who developed most of the area east of here at Brown’s Bluff which became Capitol Park, footed the $2 million for the luxury hotel in the 1890s. Architect Frank Edbrooke filled the triangular plot with a Romanesque-style building of red granite and matching sandstone. Each of the 410 rooms boasted a window to the street and a door that opened onto an elegant atrium illuminated by a skylight with shining onyx walls. And those guests could rest secure in the knowledge the Brown Palace was one of America’s first fully fireproof buildings, a fact that was trumpeted from the cover of the May 1892 issue of Scientific American.
370 17th Street at southeast corner of Tremont Place
Here are the stats for Colorado’s tallest building: 714 feet high, tallest building in the Rocky Mountains, 56 floors, 1.2 million square feet of office space, 109th tallest building in the United States. Another glass box creation of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Republic Plaza came on line in 1984, built of reinforced concrete and clad in Sardinian granite.
TURN RIGHT ON 17TH STREET. TURN LEFT ON GLENARM PLACE.
1621 Glenarm Place
This Art Deco movie palace moved to the forefront of the scores of Denver theaters almost as soon as it opened in 1930. An estimated crowd of 20,000 showed up on August 29 for the Grand Opening presenting the musical comedy Let’s Go Native starring Jeanette MacDonald. Architect Temple Buell highlighted his Art Deco design with native Western themes and artist Vincent Mondo decorated the auditorium with silk murals depicting the area’s heritage. The Paramount’s life arc followed closely to that of its fellow downtown theaters across America - glory days in the 1930s and 1940s, a losing battles waged against television and suburban flight in the 1960s and virtual extinction by the 1980s. But the Paramount has been one of the lucky ones and today is the only Denver stage to retain its original splendor.
TURN RIGHT AT 16TH STREET ONTO THE 16TH STREET MALL.
511 16th Street at northwest corner of Glenarm Street
C.M. Kittredge built his fortune in real estate and he erected this commercial structure in 1891. Architect A. Morris Stuckert tapped the brawny Richardsonian Romanesque style based on the works of Boston designer Henry Hobson Richardson, the most influential architect of post-Civil War America. Hallmarks of the style seen here include rough-hewn stone, in this case native granite and rhyolite, a rooftop gable, a powerful entrance arch and smooth granite columnettes.
1614 Welton Street at northeast corner of 16th Street
Here is another Richardsonian Romanesque creation, from Frank Edbrooke in 1889. Again you can see rough-faced stone, massive arched openings and a rooftop gable. A fire in 1985 destroyed the interior behind the granite and red sandstone walls but the building was completely restored. The Order of Ancient, Free, and Accepted Masons organized in 1858 with a virtual Who’s Who of Denver’s founding fathers peppering the membership roster.
1555 Welton Street at southwest corner of 16th Street
Leonard R. Steel was a flamboyant Upstate New York businessman who started a chain of department stores that featured roomy cafeterias and on-site candy shops. Ho item sold for more the $20. He also invested heavily in real estate and a sugar mill. When his Steel’s Corner opened here in 1922 a throng of 100,000 eager Denver shoppers stripped the shelves bare. But even as the cash registers hummed, back east Steel was fighting legal actions involving fraudulent sales of stock and when he died on a train en route to try to save his company, the stores were doomed. Architect Merrill Hoyt wound up suing to try and collect on unpaid bills from the closed store for his four-story Neoclassical building, which was quickly converted to retail shops and offices.
1550 California Street at northeast corner of 16th Street
Washington McClintock was a successful lumberman in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania when he was forced to abandon the smoke-filled streets beside the Monongahela River due to a violent attack of asthma in 1872 when he was 27 years old. McClintock landed in Denver where he plowed his Eastern profits into Colorado real estate. He developed this three-story, U-shaped commercial structure in 1910. The design team of Robert Willison and Montana Fallis created an exuberant shopping arcade with columns and lavish terra cotta ornamentation.
Denver Dry Goods Company
California Street between 15th and 16th streets
A promotional post card from the Denver Dry Goods Company in 1916 boasted: “The Largest Store in the Central West, 400 Feet long-Seven Acres Floor Area, 1,200 Employees, A $1,500,000 Stock.” Michael. J. McNamara and L.H. Flanders, both former retail clerks in town, started the business in 1879. The core of this block-swallowing brick building was raised in 1889 with regular additions coming along in 1898 and 1906 and 1924 as the business became familiarly known as “The Denver, Where Colorado Shops With Confidence.” The old retailer shuffled owners in the 1970s and 1980s before being acquired by May Company in 1986; the flagship store here was converted into apartments in 1994.
Hayden, Dickinson & Feldhauser Building/Colorado Building
northwest corner of 16th and California streets
The dry goods firm of Hayden, Dickenson & Feldhauser constructed the core of this brick building in 1891; the store expanded and added floors in the early 1900s. The original proprietors would not recognize their old emporium today, however. In the 1930s Jules Jacques Benedict, one of Colorado’s most famous and prolific architects, gave the building an Art Deco makeover at which time it got a new name as well - Colorado Building.
TURN RIGHT ON CALIFORNIA STREET TO SEE THE BUILDING NEXT DOOR.
Feldhauser / Baldwin Building
1623 California Street
For a brief time in the19th century cast iron enjoyed a flurry of popularity in the construction of downtown American buildings. It was inexpensive and quick to install and could be molded into decorative facades. Philip Feldhauser had enough capital left over from his project next door to erect this commercial building for his carpet business a few years later. Today it boasts the last remaining cast iron facade in downtown Denver.
RETURN TO 16TH STREET AND TURN RIGHT, CONTINUING ON THE MALL.
720 16th Street at southeast corner of Stout Street
The Neusteter family emigrated from Austria to the United States around 1860, settling first in Cincinnati and then Philadelphia. Abraham Neusteter and his son Max operated a ready-to-wear store, the Neusteter Cloak and Suit Company in St. Louis. Between 1911 and 1919, other members of the family operated stores in Denver and in Lincoln, Nebraska. Neusterer’s here began modestly with three stories but blew up in 1923-24 amidst a general downtown Denver economic boom. The busy design shop of brothers William and Arthur Fisher outfitted the upscale department store with clean Chicago Commercial style lines around an orderly fenestration grid of a large fixed pane window flanked by double-hung sidelights. Neusteter’s remained open until 1985.
A. T. Lewis & Son Department Store and New Building
800-816 16th Street at southwest corner of Stout Street
Robert Sawers Roeschlaub was born in Bavaria, Germany in 1843 just before his family emigrated to the American Midwest, joining one of several Bavarian enclaves that emerged there. Roeschlaub fought two years with distinction in the Union Army and after the Civil War drifted west where he became one of Denver’s earliest architects in 1873, and the first to be licensed. He would go on to become president of the American Institute of Architects Colorado chapter for twenty years. Of the many commercial structures Roeschlaub placed on Denver streets this red brick and terra-cotta corner building, created in a Romanesque style in 1891, is one of only two remaining. It marks one of the first uses decorative terra-cotta in Denver. Aaron Thompson Lewis was the second tenant, moving in during 1896 and replacing Salomon’s Bazaar. Lewis was a native of New Brunswick, New Jersey who had farmed and worked in a bank but had never operated a store when he arrived in Denver in 1880 at the age of 49. While Aaron Dennison Lewis was in charge in 1917 an annex was constructed down Stout Street, designed by Frank Edbrooke and dressed in white terra-cotta detailing. The Lewis operation remained here until 1932; today the space has been redeveloped as luxury lofts.
820 16th Street at southeast corner of Champa Street
George Gifford Symes was born in Ohio near Lake Erie in 1840 and fought in the Civil War with the Wisconsin infantry, becoming Colonel of the 44th Regiment in February of 1863. Struck in the spine by a minnie ball, Symes would suffer from debilitating back pain ever after. President Ulysses S. Grant appointed Symes justice for the Montana Territory in 1869 but he resigned to begin private practice due to his health, coming to Denver in 1874. Symes built one of the largest commercial structures in town on this corner in 1883 that helped establish 16th Street as Denver’s main commercial avenue; two years later he was elected to the first of two terms in the United States Congress. In November of 1893, stricken with “a terrible attack of congestion in back and brain,” as he wrote in a farewell note, Symes sat in a chair in Room 70 of the Symes Block and put a bullet in his head. This building replaced the original Symes Block in 1906 as one of the first steel-framed structures in Denver. The architectural firm of Richard Howland Hunt and Joseph Howland Hunt of New York City, whose client list included some of the wealthiest names in America, drew up the Beaux Arts plan for the eight-story building whose principal tenant for many years was F.W. Woolworth’s five and dime.
A.C. Foster Building/University Building
912 16th Street at northwest corner of Champa Street
By 1910 some businessmen began to see the town’s nine-story height limit as choking Denver’s image as a progressive, prosperous, big-time city. One of the first to challenge the ordinance was Alexis C. Foster who had started in the Denver real estate business in 1890 before shifting into banking where he rose to become President of the U.S. National Bank. He formed an investment brokerage with William Ellery Sweet, later to become governor of Colorado, and James H. Causey and made arrangements for a new fireproof steel and concrete twelve-story building to house the firm. Foster hired architects William Ellsworth and Arthur Addison Fisher, who were busy designing showy mansions around Capitol Hill, and they delivered a classically flavored tower rendered in dark brown brick and white terra-cotta. When it was completed in 1911 at the cost of $800,000 local newspapers gushed, “the exterior decorations of the Foster Building are among the most unique and elaborate ever used on an office building in the United States.” The building was given to Denver University in 1921 to provide income for social science programs and the school retained the property until the 1980s.
TURN LEFT ON CHAMPA STREET.
Union Lodge No. 1
1543 Champa Street
The Middle Ages in Great Britain saw the banding together of tradesmen into guilds to promote business and fellowship. The carpenters had their own guild, the bricklayers had their own guild and so on. Trades that did not have a large number of practitioners welded into hodgepodge guilds known as Odd Fellows. In 19th century America an International Order of Odd Fellows lodge building, usually exuberantly ornate, could be found in virtually every town. This was Denver’s, raised in 1889. Architect Emmett Anthony blended several Victorian-era design elements including arched Romanesque windows, a classical entablature framed by roof finials, and a truncated corner tower for his confection. The Lodge is the most prominent of three gritty century-old survivors on this block, including #1525-1527 and #1531. The Filbeck, the southernmost of the trio, was designed by British-born architect John J. Huddart who made a reputation around Denver in the early years of the 20th century with his Classical Revival buildings, although this one has been much compromised. It currently is home to the improv comedy stylings and teachings of the Bovine Metropolis Theater.
Gas & Electric Building
910 15th Street at southwest corner of Champa Street
Harry Edbrooke was born into a family of architects in 1873; his father Willoughby was one of America’s most prominent Victorian designers who did a stint as Supervising Architect of the U.S. Treasury Department. In 1908 Harry traveled to Denver from Chicago to join his uncle Frank’s firm. Frank Edbrooke had been designing some of the town’s most iconic buildings since the 1870s and was often referred to as “dean of Denver architecture.” Harry Edbrooke gets credit for the firm’s creation of the Gas & Electric Building in 1910, crafted in the Chicago Commercial style and distinguished by some 13,000 electric lights implanted in the facade.
Colorado Convention Center
700 14th Street between Champa and Welton streets
The Denver County Convention and Expo Center opened in 1990 at a cost of $7 million. In 2004 a $308 million expansion came along doubling the exhibition space, adding a 5,000 seat indoor amphitheater, creating Denver’s largest ballroom and brandishing a new nameplate. Today the Colorado Convention Center facilities host over 400 events every year from beer festivals to spelling bees. Of the works of public art sprinkled around the complex the most striking is I See What You Mean, a 40-foot polymer-and-concrete bear peering in the windows next to the main entrance on 14th Street. The work by Lawrence Argent was erected in 2005.
TURN RIGHT ON 14TH STREET.
Denver Auditorium Arena
14th Street between Curtis and Champa streets
When the Denver Municipal Auditorium was constructed in 1908, primarily to host the Democratic National Convention where William Jennings Bryan would be nominated for his third and last unsuccessful run for the presidency, it was the second largest hall in the country, exceeded only by Madison Square Garden in New York City. The building was originally configured to host a wide range of events from theater to sports to opera. In the 1940s a large chunk of the Neoclassical space was converted into a sports venue and was the original home of the American Basketball Association’s Denver Nuggets from 1967 until 1975. In the performance part of the complex Led Zeppelin played their first American concert here in 1968.
The Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph Company Building
931 14th Street at northeast corner of Curtis Street
As telephones became universal appliances in the 1920s telephone companies required massive buildings to contain their burgeoning operations. Typically the newly popular Art Deco style was chosen for these new downtown monoliths and such was the case in Denver. William N. Bowman, who had been designing buildings around town since 1910, infused his Art Deco creation here with Gothic Revival elements and used stepped-back massing on the upper stories to reach a roofline with a parapet and corner turrets. Bowman outfitted the interior lobby with walls of Colorado travertine and locally wrought iron fixtures; his composition served the utility company from 1929 until 1984.
Tramway Cable Building
1100 14th Street at southwest corner of Arapahoe Street
All of Denver’s early street railway companies were cobbled into the Denver City Tramway Company in 1899. This corporate headquarters was designed by go-to Denver architects William and Arthur Fisher in 1912. The eight-story Renaissance Revival building was put together with dark red brick and white terra-cotta trim. Attached was a three-story streetcar barn.
TURN RIGHT ON ARAPAHOE STREET. TURN RIGHT ON 15TH STREET. TURN LEFT ON CURTIS STREET.
Curtis Block/Baur Building
1512 Curtis Street
This three-story brick commercial building was constructed by Rodney Curtis, a real estate developer who left his name on this street and later helmed the Denver Tramway. Leonard Cutshaw, an engineer with the 21st Ohio Volunteers in the Civil War who started his building career in Denver in 1873, drew up the plans. In 1891 Otto P. Baur, a German immigrant, moved his confectionery business here and Denver’s favorite candy-making operation would stay until the 1970s. Baur, who began sculpting sweets in 1871, opened a restaurant on the first floor in 1918; during the Great Depression of the 1930s Baur’s often gave away free ice cream and candy to Denver kids.
Joslin Dry Goods Company Building
934 16th Street at southeast corner of Curtis Street
When John Jay Joslin died in 1926 at the age of 96 he was lauded as the “merchant prince of Denver.” Joslin was a Vermont transplant who arrived in Denver in 1872 and purchased the pioneering New York Store on Larimer Street. In 1889 he moved his dry goods business into this four-story brick structure that Frank Edbooke had been designed two years earlier and by 1902 Joslin’s department store occupied the entire building. A fifth floor was added in 1927 as Joslin’s remained a staple in downtown Denver until 1998.
TURN LEFT ON 16TH STREET MALL TO RETURN TO THE TOUR STARTING POINT ONE BLOCK AWAY.